Listen to the Numbers, Not the HiPPO

You’ve heard of HiPPOs, right? They’re the Highest Paid Person’s Opinions, and there’s someone with them in every group.

Whether they come straight from the actual Highest Paid Person’s mouth, or just someone who sucks up to her, or the guy who’s super-charismatic and persuasive, there’s always someone who has the last word. “I think it should be like this,” they intone. And so it shall be done.

But letting just one person’s opinion sway design and product development is generally not a good idea. That’s not to say that some people aren’t going to make better calls than others — and some people make really good calls a lot of the time. But when you can test and use actual results to figure out which way to go, you 1. find out for sure, and 2. will often be surprised. Oh, and 3. you can keep testing variations to improve your clickthrough rate/conversion rate/whatever-your-KPI-metric-is. And if there’s one thing your boss will love — and I know this even though I don’t know your boss — it’s proving that you have measurable results.

Cue one of my favorite websites, Anne Holland’s Which Test Won. (I’d like to give a shoutout to Robert Sherron, test master extraordinaire, who introduced me to it.) Which Test Won is a site for geeks like me who build products for a living, and live and die by testing. In other words, it’s for people who have done this before, and who probably have a pretty good gut instinct. Here’s how it works: the homepage has a side-by-side visualization of some kind of product test, say two webpages with different amounts of selling copy, or two different kinds of banner ads.

The user gets to vote on which version “won” — got the best response. Once you vote, you get a page with the actual results, lots of great detail behind it (including often-enlightening comments from the voters), and the % of users who voted each way.

The first time I went to the site, I voted with 70% of users. Again, these were folks like me, who build and test digital products for a living. And guess what? We, the 70%, were WRONG. (Of course, lots of times I get it right. Really.) My point being that even the people who make really good calls a lot of the time, aren’t foolproof.

In my office, at the moment, I’m the one who gets to make the “final call.” But I don’t care what anyone thinks, including me. If someone has another strong opinion, we’ll test it. And we’ll listen to the numbers.

[Photo: Anthony Easton/Flickr]

About this Gun

Lisa Schneider

Lisa Schneider

is an expert in digital strategy, product development and user experience. She has leveraged her skills and insights to help multi-platform brands across various categories expand their footprint, engagement level, and revenue in the digital space (online, social media, mobile, and gaming). Follow @lisaschneider64.